Prior to the release of their fantastic new album, The Wolf Bites Back, Worship Metal caught up with amiable Orange Goblin bassist Martyn Millard and quizzed the man on Orange Goblin’s past, their inspirations, his own fantasy festival line-up and more.
Finally, we asked him to rate his own bands albums from least favourite to favourite…..and the results may surprise you!
How long have you all known each other and how did the band form?
Martyn Millard: Well, originally Pete (original rhythm guitarist) and I went to school together and used to talk about Metallica and Slayer and all things metal. His brother was good friends with Joe and that’s how us three got started. I then went on to join QPR straight from school as a trainee and that’s where I met Ben. It took a while for us to click as mates but we’ve been best mates since 93. Pete and I knew a drummer from school so we decided to jam and the rest is history. After our second drummer left we actually auditioned people for the role and Chris was put in contact with us. He actually turned out for his audition on the wrong week and the guy who was supposed to come and jam didn’t show! So Chris came in and nailed it….when he wasn’t even supposed to be there! He was that good, actually I think he auditioned us! So apart from Pete bowing out in 02, the line up has been the same since that rehearsal in 95.
The band started off with a strong stoner influence and morphed, over time, to playing more straight ahead metal. Who were your initial inspirations and what prompted the change?
Martyn Millard: Well, to begin with we were heavily influenced by Sleep and Kyuss and, from the UK, Cathedral, Electric Wizard and Acrimony… we still are. We were influenced by these bands, along with Sabbath obviously, but our tastes in music are so varied that we were never going to be able to maintain one style or genre for too long, without becoming frustrated. We’ve always said, if it sounds good we should use it. We actually had quite a variation of styles on the first few records too, songs like “Magic Carpet”, “Star Shaped Cloud”, “Time Travelling Blues” and “The Big Black” are all quite different.
I think Chris’ punk influence became more prevalent as time went on and maybe Ben and I’s love of traditional rock and metal, especially Motörhead, also became more and more of an influence. As well as Joe’s blues and classic rock.
We just throw it all into the pot and see what comes out. The new album The Wolf Bites Back has two songs sitting next to each other, “Suicide Division” and “The Stranger” and they as far apart as we could possibly get them and I’m quite proud of that.
Can we ask about the decision to finally go professional in 2013 and how you ended up reversing that decision?
Martyn Millard: Well, we decided that the buzz around the band after A Eulogy For The Damned was such that it would be a big opportunity missed if we didn’t at least give it a go. So, we quit the day jobs in 2013 and we spent nine months on the road. It was exhausting but a great experience. The band made great money but unfortunately our overheads were also huge so by the end of the year, we didn’t have too much to show for all out hard work. It would have been great if we were young men but that’s hard work for a band in their 40’s, you know. No tour buses, just sleeping upright in vans and the occasional hotel. So we decided after a lot of discussion to all go back to work and continue doing the band at weekends as before.
What has been the highest and lowest point of your career?
Martyn Millard: Oh man! We’ve had so many highs. Things that most people wouldn’t see as the best bits, you know? From our first rehearsal, to our first proper show, to getting a demo made, to supporting some of our favourite bands (Electric Wizard, Mourn, Acrimony) to being signed to Rise Above etc, it just goes on from there. We have been so lucky in that respect. So, from meeting and becoming friends with our musical idols, to touring with Alice Cooper, Dio, Black Sabbath, Cathedral, Clutch and so many more. Playing main stage at Ozzfest and Download as well. Making records and being able to play our ideas to people and of course those people liking the music and becoming fans. That still feels strange to us after 23 years… that we would have fans but it is the most rewarding thing in the world to us. We are so excited for people to hear the new record as we think people will find a lot to enjoy.
Our lows have been very few and far between. Of course we’ve had disappointing shows and reviews, but that’s normal. We lost a dear friend of ours in a road accident, early on in our career, which hit us all very hard at the time. We also had a terrible time on tour in Europe in 2013. We had three or four tyre blow outs, equipment failures and culminating in Joe tearing his Achilles tendon and having to fly home. That was a low point but we got through it ok in the end.
What’s been your favourite tour?
Martyn Millard: That’s a tough question! So many factors make a tour great, crowds, venues, other bands, fun….all these things would suggest a different tour to me. Crowds – our tour with Cathedral in Japan in 99 was insane. It was GoblinMania!! Ha ha!! Venues – touring with Alice Copper and Dio in 2001, where we played Wembley Arena and venues like that; that was mind blowing! Other bands – we’ve been lucky to tour with such great bands such as Clutch, Solace, Grand Magus, Roadsaw, Red Fang, Goatsnake, Unida etc etc. But more than being great bands, these guys are great people and that’s more important.
The UK had a thriving stoner/doom scene in the late 90’s. Along with Electric Wizard, you’re one of the last bands standing. Why do you think that is?
Martyn Millard: I’m not exactly sure, maybe a little luck? Maybe because we always enjoyed playing live so much. We’ve always remained the best of friends and learned to respect each others space. We haven’t argued too much over the years and I think that’s important.
You have a chance to curate a one day festival, which six bands would you pick?
Martyn Millard: Oh wow! Only six? Ok, I’ll choose bands that are not together anymore but who I would have loved to have seen in their prime and a couple of current acts: Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Grand Funk Railroad, Iron Maiden, Ghost and Yob.
Keeping with the theme, which five albums would be your chosen ‘desert island discs’?
Martyn Millard: Ok, so… Live After Death – Iron Maiden, Dark Side Of The Moon – Pink Floyd, Welcome to… Sky Valley – Kyuss, Weather Systems – Anathema and Masters Of Reality – Black Sabbath.
Prior to Orange Goblin‘s recent headlining slot in Belfast (you can read our review of the gig here), we asked Martyn Millard if he wouldn’t mind rating his own band’s albums from least favourite to the cream of the frickin’ crop….which he very kindly agreed to do! Classy chap!
Here’s the results:
8. Frequencies From Planet Ten (1997)
“Least favourite to listen to is probably our first record Frequencies From Planet Ten. Now I know people who say ‘that’s my favourite’, that’s cool, and I get that, but I think a lot of the songs are a little bit naive. We were very young and inexperienced and it was written before Chris (drums) was in the band for a start. He’d joined the band after it was written, but before we recorded it. There’s some great memories from that record but I think songs like “Land Of Secret Dreams” were big songs at the time but, for me, just haven’t aged well. I still love it though, I’m still very proud of it.”
7. Back From The Abyss (2014)
“So, I guess I would put our latest record Back From The Abyss next. Only because there’s a few songs on that record that I really like, but can’t play them live. We’ve done too much to the songs in the studio, where live it doesn’t sound right and we can’t pull it off. Maybe the production’s not how we wanted it, it was a bit rushed.”
6. Coup De Grace (2002)
“So, the next one would probably be Coup De Grace. When we wrote it we were really bored of the whole stoner rock thing and of being labelled stoner rock. We did use the term but we’d moved on and had more to our bow than playing stoner rock, none of us smoked so being called a stoner rock band and none of us were stoned was kind of weird, we were always drinking. I’m not sure, some of it worked. Scott Reeder (Kyuss, Obsessed) came in to do production and he had trouble with the desk, he wasn’t happy with it and you can tell. The production’s not great and that wasn’t Scott’s fault, that was our fault. We were absolutely paralytic every day, that’s the temptation of a residential studio, you’re not going anywhere and temptation sets in. John Garcia (Kyuss) flew into do “Made Of Rats” and “Jesus Beater”…..”Made Of Rats” worked, “Jesus Beater” I’m not so sure.”
5. Thieving From The House Of God (2004)
“So, what’s next? This would probably change if I was doing it tomorrow, next one is probably Thieving From The House Of God. It’s a good record, I like it a lot but it feels like there’s not enough strong songs on it. We do a few songs from it, “Some You Win, Some You Lose” is usually in the live set. I like it, I like the record.”
4. Healing Through Fire (2007)
“After that is probably Healing Through Fire. I like the album and the songs change when Ben (Ward, vocalist) gets involved. He comes in and says these are the lyrics and this is what it’s called. With this one he had this whole theme about the Great Fire of London, which is obviously where we are all from. The whole theme of the album is really about, but not strictly, the fire of London and how it killed the spread of the plague. So, Healing Through Fire was a great title. You know, it’s not a song title but he says it in one of the songs. I like the album because it’s based on where I’m from and is historical, and I like things like that.”
3. Time Travelling Blues (1998)
“I guess the next one would be Time Travelling Blues. I love that record, I really do, because it’s us, with Chris in the band now. Chris writes a lot of music for a drummer and we were kind of growing up a little bit. I mean the differences between that and the first record are quite big. There was more confidence, maturity and we were playing live more and had toured by that point. So it’s a big step up. I think that album is pretty strong, the title track is one of my favourite things we ever did and it showed a lighter side for us, especially now. We play pretty much a heavy metal set which is weird because it is us.”
2. The Big Black (2000)
“So that leaves two! The next would be The Big Black, which came out at the height of stoner rock, and we’d really came to peoples attention. The first album, we had Billy Anderson come in and produce us and Billy was like a super star. He’d recorded the Melvins, Neurosis, EyeHateGod and Sleep and was just starting to do the first High On Fire record. It was also the last record we did with Pete O’Malley where he had a big input, you can hear his influence in that with the simple stoner rock. I think after the first two records again it was another step up to be sure and it was so strong that the album that followed it (Coup de Grace) was always going to, you know it was going to be hard to top. You know, it’s simple and strong and that’s what makes it so good.”
1. A Eulogy For The Damned (2012)
“That leads me to my favourite album which is A Eulogy For The Damned. There was five years between it and Healing Through Fire, we’d never gone away, we were gigging all the time. Writing and rehearsing was the problem, we never rehearsed and still don’t really to play as we’ve been doing these songs for twenty years. I think five years of ideas came together and I don’t know, it just worked. We had a very young producer in Jamie Dodd, he was half our age. We had a studio where we just went in weekends. So, we weren’t away from our families andwe could go away, come back, and change things and, I don’t know, it just worked. Back from The Abyss was done the same way but for some reason it didn’t work but that’s not Jamies fault, it was ours. The songs weren’t strong enough.”
So where did your favourite Orange Goblin album rank? Feel free to let us know in the comment section below.
Orange Goblin‘s 9th album, The Wolf Bites Back, will be unleashed on 15th June 2018 via Candlelight Records.